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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

Not all fats created equal

Trans fats are associated with greater risk of death and coronary heart disease but saturated fats, not so much, says a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) led by McMaster researchers.

"For years everyone has been advised to cut out fats. Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fats is less clear," said lead author Russell de Souza, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics.

"That said, we aren't advocating an increase of the allowance for saturated fats in dietary guidelines, as we don't see evidence that higher limits would be specifically beneficial to health."

Current guidelines recommend that saturated fats are limited to less than 10 per cent, and trans fats to less than one per cent of energy, to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

De Souza and his colleagues analyzed the results of 50 observational studies assessing the association between saturated fats or trans fats and health outcomes in adults. The team found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and death for any reason, coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease, ischemic stroke or Type 2 diabetes.

However, consumption of industrial trans fats was associated with a 34 per cent increase in death for any reason.